H-index: A Measure of Scholarly Impact

The H-index, also known as the Hirsch index is a widely used bibliometric indicator used to measure the impact and productivity of a researchers in various academic and scientific disciplines. It is named after its creator Jorge E. Hirsch. H-index provides a quantitative measure of a researcher’s scholarly output and influence, capturing both the number of publications and the impact of those publications. This article summarizes concept and significance of the H-index, its calculation, its advantages, criticisms, and its applications in academic research

What is H-Index?

Ø  The H-index is designed to overcome the limitations of other traditional measures of scholarly productivity, such as the total number of publications or the total number of citations.

Ø  Metrices such as total number of publications of total citations provide some insight into a researcher’s work. However, they do not consider the distribution of citations across a researcher’s body of work.

Learn more: What is Journal Impact Factor

Ø  The H-index aims to balance the quantity and quality of publications.

Ø  H-index reflects a researcher’s impact by considering both their most cited papers and the overall body of work.

Ø  The h-index can be calculated automatically in Web of Science and Scopus or manually in other databases that provide citation information (e.g. SciFinder, PsychINFO, Google Scholar).

How to Calculate H-Index?

Ø  To calculate the H-index, one needs to compile a list of a researcher’s publications.

Ø  Then, arrange them in descending order based on the number of citations each publication has received.

Ø  The H-index is the highest number, h, for which there are at least h papers, each of which has been cited h times.

Ø  The h-index is calculated based on two pieces of information:

  • The total number of papers published (Np)
  • The number of citations (Nc) for each paper

Ø  For example, if a researcher has 15 papers that have each been cited at least 15 times, their H-index is 15.

Ø  Another Example:

what is h-index?

Ø  This researcher has an h-index of 6, because six or more articles received six or more citations.

Advantages of the H-Index

The H-index offers several advantages as a bibliometric measure:

advantages of h index

Balancing Quantity and Quality

Ø  Unlike simple counts of citations or publications, the H-index considers both the number of papers and their impact.

Ø  This provides a more balanced view of a researcher’s work.

Stability Over Time

Ø  The H-index is less susceptible to sudden fluctuations, such as a single highly-cited paper or a sudden drop in citations.

Ø  This stability makes it a reliable metric for assessing a researcher’s long-term impact.


Ø  The H-index is widely used across different fields and research areas, making it possible to compare researchers from diverse backgrounds.

Ø  This comparability is valuable for grant agencies, academic institutions, and researchers themselves.

Motivational Tool

Ø  The H-index can serve as a motivational tool, encouraging researchers to maintain a high level of productivity and the pursuit of influential research.

Applications of the H-Index

The H-index finds applications in various areas:

Academic Hiring and Promotion

Ø  Academic institutions often use the H-index as a criterion for hiring and promoting faculty members.

Research Funding

Ø  Grant agencies may consider the H-index when evaluating research proposals and distributing research funding.

Benchmarking and Collaboration

Ø  Researchers use the H-index to identify potential collaborators and to compare their work with peers in their field.

Author Rankings

Ø  Journals and academic databases use the H-index to rank authors and identify influential researchers in specific domains.

Criticisms and Limitations of H-Index

While the H-index has gained widespread acceptance, it has many criticisms and limitations. Some of them are summarized below.

limitations of h index

Field Dependence

Ø  The H-index is influenced by the citation practices of the specific research field.

Ø  Some fields may have higher citation rates than others, making it difficult to compare researchers across different disciplines.

Age Bias

Ø  Young researchers, even with high-quality work, may have lower H-indices due to the time it takes for their publications to accumulate citations.


Ø  Researchers can artificially inflate their H-indices by self-citing their own work, which raises questions about the fairness of the metric.

Ignoring Negative Citations

Ø  The H-index does not account for negative citations or retractions, potentially skewing the assessment of a researcher’s impact.


The H-index, introduced by Jorge E. Hirsch, has become a valuable tool in the world of academia and scientific research. It provides a holistic view of a researcher’s impact by considering both the number and quality of their publications. While the H-index has its limitations and critics, it has proven to be a reliable and widely accepted metric for evaluating scholarly productivity and influence.

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